In September, the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society had 671 new pets dropped at its doors.

That’s nearly 200 more than a typical month. Each of those animals must go through a rigorous testing and evaluation process before being put up for adoption.

There are two ways a pet can end up in the care of the Humane Society. The first is a drop-off at the front desk. Here the owner meets with adoption counselors and shares crucial information about the pet. Things that will help the staff find the animal a new home.

“Every detail is, there’s not one that’s too small. Any information that we can have is really, really good. People, when they come in to adopt they ask those questions. Are they crate trained? Do they like to be outside? How much do they like to be outside,” said Adoption Counselor, CJ Burd. 

The other method of arrival is a little more tricky for staff. This is the Night Receiving room. It has an exterior entrance, which allows people to enter the room after hours without getting access to the rest of the shelter. Then, they place their pet in a crate. Once the door shuts, it can’t be opened until a staff member shows up the next day with a key. 

These pets have to be examined extra close, considering they didn’t come with many details.

“We put them through a pretty rigorous testing of behavior. We make loud noises. We stomp. We even yell at some points, just to be sure that they’re good with their surroundings. Just to be sure they’re going to be calm when they get into a house,” said Kori Baade, SFAHS Executive Director.

These tests help the staff know if the pets will be good in homes with other animals, or children. The staff even uses a fake hand, to see how the animals respond to someone touching their food or playing rough.

Once they pass the behavior tests, they head off to the doctor.

“A lot of these animals that we have here came from very poor backgrounds themselves. They didn’t receive routine veterinary care, no vaccinations. Things of that nature. So should we get something in that’s highly contagious, it could run through our shelter very quickly,” said Anna Braunschmidt, SFAHS Veterinarian.

If there are red flags with behavior or health issues, there are a few different routes the animals can go. Many pets go through the Parolled Pups program at the state penitentiary to learn how to interact with people better. Dogs who don’t like big crowds are often paired with veterans in the Big Paws program.

Sioux Falls’ Area Humane Society is a “no-kill shelter”, meaning the animals can’t be killed for space issues.

Sadly, some animals come in with issues that are just too big to handle. Those have to be put down.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to do that, but we do have animals that are vicious that cannot be put out to the public. We have the public who comes in and requests euthanasia for maybe their elderly pet, or an animal who has cancer. Some of those health issues. Or if they’ve been injured on the road and have fatal circumstances,” said Baade. 

Just because it’s part of the job, doesn’t make any of it easy for the staff.

“We’ve seen so many hoarding cases, neglect cases. Where an animal will walk in literally a bag of bones with no muscle mass, no fat, can barely raise their head. Those are probably the hardest ones because you know that somebody has watched that animal day in and day out and chose to do nothing for them,” said Braunschmidt. 

But it’s not all bad. There are many cases where the animal can be saved and is eventually paired up with a family that fits their needs. It’s those moments that keep the humane society going.

“People send us pictures after two or three months that they’ve been out in the home. The long-term ones, I mean, pretty much brings us to tears around here. All of us. It’s bitter sweet. We don’t want to see them go but we want to see them go, so it’s kind of one of those things. Part of the job,” said Baade. 

“It’s the absolute best. You know, we always ask people to come back for a visit but it’s not the end of the world if that never happens. We know that they’re happy and that’s all that we want,” said Burd.

“So many of them we can help. All it takes is some time, some care, and just somebody to care for them. It doesn’t take that much,” said Braunschmidt. 

For more information about the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society, visit the organization’s website.